Tuesday, February 24, 2009

{TWD} Caramel Crunch Bars


This week's TWD recipe is Caramel Crunch Bars, which are pretty much heaven for toffee lovers. A chocolate-laced butter base is covered with a chocolate layer and toffee bits. This recipe was straightforward and quick - and a gift of grace in that they involved no separated, whipped, or cooked egg parts. And no molten sugar, despite the "caramel" in their name!

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The dough was buttery and not too sweet

- I got lazy in chopping my chocolate and I'm pretty sure the pieces were too big.

- Using the specified 9x13 pan made for a very thin base layer which was a pain to spread on the buttered foil. Whatever merits I might have earned from not over-mixing the dough in the mixer, I erased in pushing the dough all over the pan in an attempt to get an even layer.

- they were very bubbly when I took them out of the oven. I wanted to get a picture of the bubbles but they died down by the time I got the camera ready. I think I could have removed them a few minutes sooner.

- Spreading the chocolate for the topping went smoothly, and I pressed Heath "bits o brickle" into the chocolate.

- I was feeling reckless, so I cut the bars a bit bigger than specified.

- The base layer of my bars was very crumbly. I could not remove bars from the pan, or even pick one up, without parts of the bottom layer spalling off. There was not one bar that ended up nice and crisply cut.

- It seems like using a 9x9 pan might make for thicker, more manageable layers.

the verdict:

very buttery, very toffee-y, very buttery, very crunchy, very buttery, very crumbly, very buttery, very yummy.

And have I mentioned that they're buttery?

I served these at book group and everyone pretty much abandoned all restraint. The bars were a huge hit. I unloaded as many of the extra bars as I could onto other book group members; these are not something that I needed to have around the house! They are absolutely dangerous; I love toffee and these were like a baked elaboration on Heath bars. To me they were more toffee-like than caramel-like.

One thing that bothered me was that they were so crumbly. The large-ish chocolate chunks in the base layer only made the crumbling worse. Operation: Reduce Crumble would include the following steps -
1. Leave the chocolate out of the base layer and either add it to the topping or eliminate it altogether.
2. Try a shorter cooking time.
And
3. Bake them in a smaller pan - 9x9, 11x7, or 8x8 - so that both layers would be thicker.


A note:

I will be observing the season of Lent, which begins tomorrow, in a variety of ways, a few of which relate to this blog. From Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday (April 12) I will not be eating anything sweet. I've planned ahead as much as possible - by the end of today I will have finished making all five of the March TWD recipes (it's been a baking whirlwind around here in the days since the recipes were announced!) I will be posting each of the TWD selections for the appropriate week, and I plan to bake whichever recipe is chosen for April 7, but I may not actually taste it before I post.

In the past few years I've also made a practice of "giving up" some aspect of computer activity for Lent. This year I'll be giving up Google Reader and also general surfing of other cooking blogs. That's the reason that you'll see fewer of my comments in the coming weeks. My current plan is to try to "speak when spoken to;" if you comment on my blog, I'll visit you and return the favor. Also, if I participate in any roundup events (TFF, BBD, etc.) I will do my best to check the roundup post and perhaps come around and check out individual posts also.

As a final matter, during the first part of March I'll be traveling and will be out of range of computer reception. I'm hoping to schedule some blog posts from my endless backlog of draft posts, so that you'll have something to read in my absence.

55 comments:

Yael said...

Hi Nancy- Again, I love your descriptions and recommendations about the things you make and bake. How interesting that I am here, halfway across the world, and I see you just wrote this post moments ago! Have a good month!

Elyse said...

Sorry your bars were crumbly, but man, do they look delicious! Toffee and butter? Where could you go wrong?

pinkstripes said...

I used the 9 by 13 pan and thought my bars were thick, almost too thick. I wonder why the difference?

Your bars look great. I'm glad they were a hit for you and your book group.

Cakelaw said...

I don't think it matters so much that they crumbled - they would sure have tasted good anyway! Good luck with Lent, and enjoy your travels.

mike said...

Nancy - these look GREAT! Honestly, they look straight out of the cookbook. Hm... my "crust" was more like a "batter" going in and cutting them was more like cutting a brick. Ok, not that hard, but they weren't crumbly. Baking is such a strange phenomena - from one person to the next. Enjoy your time away - I hope it brings appreciation when you return!

natalia said...

Dear Nancy, ciao ! I found them too buttery so I gave them right away to young friends with no colesterol problems !

Jin Hooi said...

yeah, u r right , it was a pain trying the spread the dough !! But it worth all the effort ;-) Your bars look great !!

Matt's Kitchen said...

Your bars look perfect to me, but I'm actually more interested in what you read at book group. (My book club is always looking for new titles.)

I admire your discipline in getting all of that baking done before Lent! You must be exhausted from all of that baking and the inevitable clean up!

Bria said...

Yes! These were so buttery! Yours look very pretty too.

Cathy said...

Your first picture is magazine worthy. Way to be crazy and cut these bigger. I had to read the instructions a few times to make sure that they really said 2" x 1". I also didn't think these were particularly caramelish, and again had to re-read the instructions to make sure I didn't forget a step. Glad that these were such a big hit for you! Sounds like the crumbliness didn't slow anyone down a bit!

Andrea said...

Your bars look wonderful, sorry you had the crumbly problem. I am glad that I left the chocolate out of the base now that I see you had trouble with it. I agree these were more toffee than caramel, how about toffee crunch bars? :)

Amanda said...

Nancy your bars look incredible. I used the 13x9 too and felt my were too crisp. Good luck with lent, and WOW you were a baking whirlwind!

Peggy said...

I definitely did not make mine right because they were not crunchy at all! I hate making effort and things not turning out perfect, you know? I sure will miss you during Lent, but I am amazed by your self discipline! Hope you have a great month and a great trip. I am also amazed at all the baking that must have been going on at your house lately!!!

Di said...

Your bars look great! I did a 9" square pan, and it worked quite well, not too crumbly.

Wow, that's a lot of baking in a short period of time! I don't observe Lent now, but I did when I was younger, and what I gave up always depended on whether my birthday (2/21) fell before or after Ash Wednesday. =)

Nancy said...

Everything you make always looks picture perfect! I'm sure your book club didn't mind if the bars were a little crumbly! ;-)

Liz said...

gorgeous photos! I didn't have any problem with my bars crumbling, but I did chop my chocolate pretty finely. I also enjoyed these bars.

Steph said...

I love the shots of your bars. Thanks for the tips, as usual!

Jules Someone said...

Holy smokes! I'm sorta glad I don't have to do the Lent thing. I'd never last. Your bars look great. I'm sorry they were so crumbly. Maybe a shorter baking time?

Maria said...

Love the bars!! Have fun on your trip! We will miss you while you are away!

myfamousrecipe said...

I really loved these -- my husband and I ate the whole batch in two nights.

I'm so glad you'll still post upcoming TWD results, even though you're avoiding sweets. It's always great to see your photos and descriptions.

Megan said...

Wow - you've got some serious determination there - not only giving up sweets, but computer time as well?

Madam Chow said...

Nancy, I totally agree with your review on the bars. I baked mine in a smaller pan, and they were still a bit crumbly, but not too bad since that's the way shortbread should be.

And your Lent comments inspired me, too. I'm currently thinking about what I'm going to give up, and I have to decide - soon!

dharmagirl said...

lovely bars, nancy! i love the photo of the whole pan full just barely cut apart...

what a wonderful lenten sacrifice. mine is television. it should be sweets, but with winter still in full force, that would not be wise--sweets are my salvation!

Mary Ann said...

Your bars look divine. and I do remember them being very buttery. I admire what you are doing for Lent. But, I am so glad you baked ahead so I can still see how great everything is going to turn out!

farah said...

Your bars look soooo good! These were really yummy and i really enjoyed these. Good luck with Lent :)

Jamie said...

Great looking bars! Wow...I am impressed with you giving up sweets until lent! Nice job!

Sara said...

Your bars look great. I halved this recipe and used an 8x8 and did not have much trouble with the cookie base crumbling.

MacDuff said...

That's great that you're celebrating Lent! Wonderful time of year. And I agree, the bars would have been better in a 9x9 pan!

Katrina said...

Well, you'd never know from your pictures that your bars were crumbly. Weird that you had to stretch the dough so far to fit in the 9x13. Mines worked just fine. I TOTALLY agree--these are VERY buttery. And yummy. I just made these yesterday and after taking another little bite today, I've bagged them up and they are outta here! (So I don't eat them.)
See you when you're back after lent, look forward to all your posts in the meantime.

chocolatechic said...

Buttery!

Gotta love the butter.

I used a 7x11 pan and my base didn't crumble at all.

The Blonde Duck said...

I could eat that whole pan. YUM!!!!

Jill said...

Buttery says it all! Mine weren't crumbly, but the toffee fell off.

Wow, no sweets and no Google Reader...enjoy your free time!

Pam said...

My goodness, these sound so good. I'm still deciding on my Lenten activities.

bakingwiththeboys said...

No sweets? I am impressed. I am just giving up licking the bowl and similar snacking. I gave up chocolate one year and proceeded to OD on vanilla ice cream with hot cherries. not pretty.

Your bars look great. I halved the recipe and baked in a loaf pan. A smaller pan might solve your crumb issues.

Reeni♥ said...

The bars look wonderful even if they were crumbly. It sure made a lot, I would of helped you eat them!! It sounds like you have been very busy baking!

Karen said...

Your pictures are beautiful of these!! I think I overmixed mine as I didn't have the crumble crust issues. I can't believe you have already made all of the recipes in adavnce! What great planning!

Pamela said...

I'm really impressed that you are finished baking all of MArch's recipes. THat's dedication, NAncy! So...no sweets and no Google Reader? Those are really good things to give up. I truly admire you. See you soon!!

Kayte said...

Oh, thank goodness you won't be completely awol...I would miss your little chatty notes and things! We, too, give up desserts for Lent each year and I asked the guys what we were going to do this year...the commitment to TWD making it a bit more than just a quick thought...they haven't decided yet. I told them they had until midnight. LOL. Your bars look amazing...and buttery, you think? With two sticks of butter???? OMW...LOL. How did you get yours to cut like that? I had a bit of a trial with the cutting portion and my crust was not all that crumbly...it held together fairly well. I'm out of town next week, so won't be posting then either. Have a blessed Lent.

TeaLady said...

Wow!! Finished with March. Such dedication. Wow!!!

Your bars look really good, even if they did crumble. Great job.

Tammy said...

Great read! I made them thicker whcih I liked and they werent crumbly at all. I will definitely make these again!

Lady Baker said...

Wow, I love that first photo! I agree--the bottoms sort of fell off of mine as well at times...thank you for the tips for next time to cut down on the crumble factor.

So you banged out all the March recipes?! Talk about power-baking! I did the blueberry cake last weekend--to die for! Loved it! I hope you are freezing some of the goodies for a "Sunday with Dorie!" on Easter! LOL

As a fellow Catholic, I must say giving up sweets for lent, when you are a TWD member...I am beyond impressed...I guess I have a few hours left to figure out what I shall give up. Wishing you and yours a blessed Lenten season--and safe travels!

karen said...

mine were crumbly too and i think i even overbaked. still delicious though and it was NICE to have an easy week. have fun on your travels! :)

spike. said...

My trick for the crumbly problem? make them bite sized. These were buttery and delish, eh? yours look great

Joy said...

Gorgeous photo! And I love your notes - very helpful!

Also impressed with your dedication during the Lenten season!

Jessica said...

I'm sorry that these gave you some little problems with the crumbly factor. My thicker bars were so much easier to manage than the thinner bars. I'm so impressed with you and your wonderful planning for Lent. I always give up chocolate and then try to take something on. I was relieved to see that I only have to navigate around one chocolate recipe for the month of March! Safe travels!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Your photos are lovely and your bars look very tasty. All the best with your Lenten commitments. I admire your discipline!

Teanna said...

WOW! Craziness! Giving up Google Reader for Lent?!!? I could do the sweets thing, but I actually couldn't give up Google Reader! But isn't it funny now, that that is what we have evolved to? A friend of mine is giving up Facebook! FACEBOOK! So different from even ten years ago! Regardless, your bars look like absolute perfection and I hope that you were able to EAT all that you baked for the month of March!

leanne said...

Beautiful pictures. Mine were a little crumbly but then I crumbled them up even more and put them with whipped cream. Good luck during Lent. Hope you have a great trip. Thanks for all the comments you share with our baking group

kim said...

they look great! i love the layout of your top picture. i was confused by the name, too, but i love toffee so i'm not complaining :)
good luck with giving everything up! that is a big commitment! :)

Jennifer said...

I hope you have a wonderful season of Lent and many happy times while traveling.

Your bars look delicious!

margot said...

Your bars look fantastic, I never would have guessed that they were crumbly from the photos. I'm very impressed that you managed to bake all five March recipes before the month even begins. Have a great Lent season.

TeaLady said...

Nancy. Thanks for coming by. In answer to your question - I liked the white chocolate crunch bars the best.

The Food Librarian said...

These look wonderful! My bars were really thin. What a whirlwind of baking. See you after Easter!

Leslie said...

Oh man, do these look delish! I cut mine on the cutting board with a big chef's knife rather than in the pan, and I got very little crumbling (I baked mine in a quarter sheet pan, so roughly 9x13). You are so diligent to bake all your Lent goodies in advance. I'll have to try that when Ramadan rolls around.

LyB said...

I have to agree with the "very buttery" part! Your bars look fantastic! :)